DNA damage is distinctly different from mutation, although both are types of error in DNA. DNA damage is an abnormal chemical structure in DNA, while a mutation is a change in the sequence of standard base pairs. DNA damages cause changes in the structure of the genetic material and prevents the replication mechanism from functioning and performing properly.
DNA damage and mutation have different biological consequences. While most DNA damages can undergo DNA repair, such repair is not 100% efficient. Un-repaired DNA damages accumulate in non-replicating cells, such as cells in the brains or muscles of adult mammals and can cause aging. In replicating cells, such as cells lining the colon, errors occur upon replication past damages in the template strand of DNA or during repair of DNA damages. These errors can give rise to mutations or epigenetic alterations. Both of these types of alteration can be replicated and passed on to subsequent cell generations. These alterations can change gene function or regulation of gene expression and possibly contribute to progression to cancer.
Throughout the cell cycle there are various checkpoints to ensure the cell is in good condition to progress to mitosis. The three main checkpoints are at G1/s, G2/m, and at the spindle assembly checkpoint regulating progression through anaphase. G1 and G2 checkpoints involve scanning for damaged DNA. During S phase the cell is more vulnerable to DNA damage than any other part of the cell cycle. G2 checkpoint checks for damaged DNA and DNA replication completeness. DNA damage is an alteration in the chemical structure of DNA, such as a break in a strand of DNA, a base missing from the backbone of DNA, or a chemically changed base as 8-OHdG. DNA damage can occur naturally or via environmental factors. The DNA damage response (DDR) is a complex signal transduction pathway which recognizes when DNA is damaged and initiates the cellular response to the damage.